12th Berlin International Film Festival
June 22 – July 3, 1962
"They say I want to undermine the Film Festival. Tell me now, with a standard that low how can you dig deep enough to undermine it." – Cabaret performer Wolfgang Neuss merrily dancing in the rain of criticism that was pouring down on the Berlinale.
Seldom had there been so much agreement amongst commentators: the 1962 Berlinale didn’t make anybody happy. The programme was weak and the audience numbers took a nosedive – largely thanks to the absence of East German visitors after the construction of the Berlin Wall.
Internal discussions continued to focus on the selection process. Alfred Bauer wanted to view films early, in order to be able influence the film selection of different countries. Yet an increase in travel expenses was impossible under the existing budgetary conditions. Most critics said the quality of the films shown was so poor it couldn’t be blamed on financial problems alone. Only John Schlesinger’s A Kind of Loving, Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano and Ingmar Bergman’s Samson i en Spegel | Through a Glass Darkly gave commentators the feeling that they had seen something of lasting value.
While the dubious quality of the programme may have largely reflected the crisis in the international film industry, contemporaries also questioned the competence of the selection committee: “It’s not only important for employees to be able to travel, the more important question is: who travels,” wrote Manfred Delling in an article in “Die Welt” and critic Friedrich Luft demanded that the Berlinale forfeit its A status, which he saw more as a burden than an advantage. The argument that A status placed the film selection under undue constraints, was thrown into the debate over and over again in the years to come. But neither the Senate and by no means Alfred Bauer were ready to give up the hard fought-for “seal of approval”.
The crisis has only just started
And so, the 1962 festival was followed by disillusionment more than anything else and no one realized that the crisis that had begun two years earlier was by no means overcome. It was, in fact, just beginning. On March 3, 1962 the “Oberhausen Manifesto” was presented at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, calling for a new German cinema, and simultaneously giving birth to exactly that. The radical departure from dominant methods of production, the demand for a new role for cinema and the filmmaker put a name on a crisis that went far beyond the budgetary debate of the festival. Fundamental political conflicts were at play, but the self-image of the Berlinale was still so trapped in the zeitgeist of the 1950s, that it would take several years before the festival became a constructive forum for the discussion of social issues.